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Struma - Definition

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Struma-  Struma was one of several Aliya Bet  (illegal immigration) ships organized before and during World II for Jews trying to escape Nazi occupied Europe. The doomed Jewish refugees were refused admittance to practically every country in the world. In Palestine, the British white paper of 1939 limited Jewish immigration to to 15,000 per year.

In different countries, including Romania groups of young  Jews started to organize vessels to get people to Palestine illegally, with the help of the Haganah and the Mossad l'Aliya Bet. These were often intercepted by the British, and their passengers interned on Mauritius or elsewhere. Those who got to Palestine and those who were interned were lucky, as they survived. 

In 1941, a Rumanian revisionist Zionist group chartered the Struma, a 74 year old ship formerly called the Macedonia. They took on about  769 immigrants and 10 crew. The charter was later transferred to a private firm for legal reasons. The Struma set out from Constanza on December 11,  its passengers crammed into a 160 foot long ship meant for 100 passengers, in bunks stacked 8 to 10 high. It limped into Istanbul Turkey  on December 16 for much needed engine repairs and repairs to its leaking hull.

The British Colonial Office, and the high commissioner for Palestine, Sir Harold  MacMichael, refused to allow the passengers to enter Palestine of course, despite Turkish attempts to change their minds, debates in Parliament and pressure from Jewish communities, and despite the fact that there were 10,000 unfilled certificates left in the Jewish immigration quota for 1941. The British gave the ingenious excuse that, as Romanians these passengers were enemy aliens; as such they did not qualify for this quota. The Turks did not want more refugees either. They were under severe pressure from Arabs, Germans and British not to admit refugees and not to assist refugee ships. The British were apparently willing to allow some Jewish children to enter Palestine and stay alive, but MacMichael deliberately withheld this information from the Turkish authorities.

Three or four passengers with expired entry visas for Palestine, the family of a Socony Vacuum (Mobil) oil company executive with connections,  were allowed to leave the ship and travel to Palestine. A pregnant woman was removed to a hospital. Conditions on the ship deteriorated, as there was no fresh water, little fresh food and no way to clean the ship during its long wait. On  February 23rd 1942, Turkish police took over  the Struma and cut it adrift. It was towed back to the Black Sea.  At dawn on February 24th, a Russian submarine, Number ShCh 213,  surfaced and fired one torpedo, sinking the Struma. Apparently this act was the fruit of cooperation between the Soviet Union and their new found allies, the British. There were no attempts at rescue, though the explosion could be heard from the shore. By the following morning, some 20 hours after the Struma had sunk, there was just one man left alive, David Stoliar, clinging to a piece of wreckage. He was saved by men in a row boat belonging to the local lighthouse. 103 children, 269 women and 406 men died.

Neither the British nor the Soviet officials involved were ever brought to justice for their crimes, though several unsuccessful attempts were made on MacMichael's life.

David Stoliar, was eventually allowed to enter Palestine. He fought for the British in World War II, then in 1948 he fought for Israel.

Until the break up of the USSR, the cause of the explosion on the Struma was unknown. Anti-Zionist sources insisted that the Haganah blew up the ship.


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Aliya Bet. Exodus  Mefkure Patria Salvador See also - http://www.alpas.net/uli/struma/struma_engl.htm

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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